We're days away from the 2017 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our annual event honoring the best in local food and drink. It includes awards to top chefs and restaurants, culminating in a grand event featuring sips and bites from participating nominees, as well as our partners, Woodford Reserve and Whole Foods Market.
We've elected nominees in all categories of food and beverage, from best chefs to the best restaurant in Dallas-Fort Worth. We'll toast them at a party on April 20 from 7-10 pm at Sixty Five Hundred, with tastings and awards, emceed by Fort Worth celebrity chef Tim Love. Tickets are on sale now.
First, let's take a look at the nominees for Best Restaurant of the Year.
Cork & Pig Tavern
Restaurant from prolific Fort Worth chef Felipe Armenta took over the space in the West 7th district that was vacated by AF+B. The original Cork & Pig opened in San Angelo in 2010; a second branch opened in Odessa in 2013. Wine and brick-oven pizza is the thing here, but the menu features a chef-driven blend of salads, sandwiches, and signature entrees.
Adam Jones opened Grace, named for his wife, in downtown Fort Worth in 2008. It reigns as one of the nicest, finest restaurants in the city, with stellar service, a modern American menu by award-winning chef in Blaine Staniford, and a sophisticated setting with expansive bar and glass-enclosed temperature-controlled wine cellars.
What started out as a food truck from husband-and-wife Travis and Emma Heim graduated to its own restaurant, with brisket, ribs, pulled pork, sausage, wings, and their signature bacon burnt ends, good enough to draw lines, in the tradition of modern-day barbecue. The burger gets raves, and there are lots of good sides. A second branch is on the way.
Horseshoe Hill Cafe
Restaurant in the historic Stockyards from "cowboy cook" Grady Spears spotlights one of his trademark dishes, chicken-fried steak, with a variety of ways to get it, from peppered cream gravy to CFS tacos to CFS with chili con carne.
Acclaimed chef Jesus Garcia went to the West Coast to learn about ramen and he puts that knowledge to good use at this spot he opened on West 7th Street. Ingredients such as corn on the cob aren't run-of-the-mill. He does poke, too.
Former taco truck from Sarah Castillo finds a permanent home on Montgomery Street, with a menu of a dozen tacos every day. The breakfast tacos excel. Cocktails show the care in this kitchen: The margarita is made with pressed-to-order lime juice and fresh jalapeno slices.
The Dive Oyster Bar
Robbie and Yvonne Turman, who own The Mule, opened this little spot with Josh Rangel, formerly a chef at Jon Bonnell's Waters Coastal Cuisine, serving raw and cooked oysters, po boys, some entrees, and a burger. The name is misleading; the restaurant is actually rather tidy and cheerful.
Is this venerated Japanese restaurant on the list because its sushi and bento boxes are so nicely put together by creative chef Kevin Martinez? Or is it the courageous endurance of husband and wife owners Mary Kah-Ho and Jarry Ho, who spent two long years rebuilding the restaurant after a fire, with fresh update? How about a little of both.
West Side Cafe
This west Fort Worth diner has been in business for 20 years, noted for its chicken-fried steak and for the photos of military personnel that line the restaurant’s walls. They're open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, doing down-home cooking to a faithful group of regulars who appreciate the old-fashioned way it's done.
Chef Tim Love's unique smokehouse takes a unique approach to cooking, with smokers, rotisseries, and grills, and a variety of woods including mesquite, hickory, pecan, and oak to achieve different flavors and results. Along with meats by the pound, there are tacos, Asian-accented dishes, and a kale salad. Restaurant is more than half patio, with views overlooking the Trinity Trails.